Saturday, February 11, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: Paying Villains

More people anticipated the economic collapse than expected. For instance, The Silent Friends group hacked the accounts of Lehman Brothers and plundered millions of dollars two years out from the mortgage-backed securities scandal. They were considered hacktivists or general net-terrorists for decades afterward, unable to be caught, and after the collapse, no one much wanted to catch them anyway. It wasn’t until the 2040’s when the money from those hacked accounts reappeared, in the forms of electronic deposits to the grandchildren of brokerage employees who’d been screwed out of retirement funds. All came addressed from The Silent Friends, with the explanation that their elders hadn’t know what they were doing. It paid for quite a few educations.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: Making Her

It’s too early. Go back to sleep.

Stand up. Come on, stand up.

Walk to Mommy.

You’re too old for diapers. Big girls use the potty.

Say, “Thank you.”

It’s 8:00. Time to go to this school.

Wear these skirts. They’re just like Mommy’s.

Who wears that anymore? Micros are in.

Didn’t I tell you to wear your new skirts? Why can’t you be grateful?

You dress like an old woman. What are you, a conformist?

Lighten up.

Stand up for yourself.

Do you really want to graduate a virgin?

Turn your essays in Friday.

Fold this laundry.

Love this man.

A part-time job never hurt anybody. Just ‘till my unemployment kicks in.

Can you pick up beer?

Can’t you get out of bed without making so much noise?

Is there anything that doesn’t make you nauseous?

Fill out these. Sign here.

It’s not like I asked for a kid. Maybe in a few years, but not now, right?

Make sure you take these twice a day.

Where are you going?

Breathe like this.

Why don’t you return my calls?

Why don’t you return your mother’s calls? She’s scared witless for you.


Would you like to hold him?

Are you alright, ma’am? I was asking if you’d like to hold him.

“It’s a boy?”

Yes. Would you like to hold him? I swear, he’s all cleaned up.

“…Yes, I think I would.”

Some people are waiting outside. Should I let them in?

“No. Let them wait a while longer. I have some stuff to figure out.”

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Now I Get a Liebster Award

Last week Joshua "Judge Whisky" Londero bestowed the Libester Blog Award upon my person. He said it was the least he could do after I'd entertained him for so long, which is one of the more flattering things anybody's said to me in quite a while. I'd like to thank him both for the compliment and the award.

I'm a little disappointed that this one doesn't come with fun rules like "admit seven embarrassing things about yourself" or "post a picture of you and the sharpest object in your house." However, it does prescribe passing itself on to folks who, presumably, you like. The description goes:

The Liebster Blog Award originated in Germany
(Liebster means “favourite” or “dearest” in German)
In accepting this award, the recipient agrees to:
1. Show your thanks to the blogger who gave you the award by linking back to them.
2. Reveal your top 5 picks for the award and let them know.
3. Post the award on your blog.
4. Bask in the love from the most supportive people in the blogosphere.
5. And, lastly – have fun and spread the karma!

I think my recipients posting pictures of themselves with the sharpest object in their homes would fit the definition of me "having fun." Regardless, I'm only command to pass it on, and since I didn't pass on my recent redundant awards, I'll dust off my Bookmarks for this one. Here goes.

1. Mark Kerstetter's The Bricoleur is the first blog that came to mind. Mark is in the process of figuring out what e-book project he'll take, and the blog is a great jumping-off point for content, as he's shared essays, thoughts on literature, poetry, stories and photos there. He is one of the most candid essayists I know.

2. Holt Right There has one of my favorite titles on the internet. It's run by young Jack Holt, who writes some of the weirder stuff I consume weekly, including occasional flash fiction based on movie titles (like "Shark Knight").

3. Inkstained is the blog of TS Bazelli, one of my beta readers. She's had a couple of very strong running features, including the current international bestiary "Creature Compendium." I'd never heard of The Church Grim before, had you?

4. Tim Van Sant is one fine man, and a pillar of the #fridayflash community. He writes at the OTOH, and creates a lot of the riskier and cheekier stories in the community. A stand-up guy.

5. Lastly, I bestow the Liebster upon Cathy Webster of Life on the Muskoka River. She's had a rough time lately between eye surgery and a lack of junk food. Presently she's been running a "letters from friends" event that's quite pleasant, and features at least one of the above writers.

Now, none of the above are technically obligated to photograph themselves with particularly sharp objects. I will say, though, that whomever poses with the sharpest object will win something special in my heart.

EDIT: This is actually open to all my readers and fellow writers. Snap a photo with the sharpest thing in your house. If enough people do it, we might run a formal competition.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: Yesterday was a Holiday

"Yes, yesterday was a holiday for the Red Brigadiers. It was the day marking when the Risen Man inducted his first ministers in the Sunset Cliffs. That's why today is a holiday.

"Today marks when the Risen Man's first ministers embarked and disseminated from the Sunset Cliffs and through the archipelago, to spread his words. We're keen on spreading his news. So yes, yesterday was a holiday, and today is a holiday, and tomorrow the Red Brigadiers may observe another.

"Tomorrow marks the signing of the armistice with the Munenori. You remember that treaty? You bastards broke it five seasons ago - or it will have been five seasons ago, in about eight more days. That'll be a holiday, too, to memorialize those lost in the horrific slaughter. The day after will also be a holiday, commemorating how badly we spanked the Munenori in the Battle of the Flattenings.

"We celebrate that one with copious alcohol, because at dawn the following day begins a three-day fast commemorating the Risen Man's teachings of tolerance - or 'temperance,' if you're orthodox like my mother.

"You've got to have caught on by now: every day is a holiday for us. It's a benefit to having a religion with history. We are blessed with such heritage that any day that needs taking off, or introspection, or particular care, shall be. This way a Red Brigadier is always rested well enough to do good work, and thereby add another holiday and still more tradition to our annals, so that when the known history fades, it may be replaced by what we now do. Like in two days, when the Munenori storm these trenches again? My kids will celebrate how heroically we kicked their teeth in by taking the afternoon off."

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

On My Beta Readers

I’ve just finished reading the last beta reader’s manuscript on The House That Nobody Built. It was the longest, with over 1.700 comments, and by the end I taped an envelope with the page numbers of each chapter to my computer tower. I crossed them off to encourage myself to continue.

Using six beta readers drew surprise from most of the authors I know. Most only used a couple. Two concerned friends kindly e-mailed me saying they thought more would be too much work for me, and they feared I’d overwhelm myself. After a month of self-imposed deadlines and legitimately fearing for my eyesight, I’m glad I stuck with my six. Here’s why.

470-odd pages look better when broken down.

My six covered more ranges of experience. I get multiple men, multiple women, multiple ethnicities and regions represented. Some were writers and novelists, at least one works in a related craft, and two were simply passionate Genre readers. The professional zoologist knew things my linguist-nut friend didn't, and vice versa.

The bigger the population, the easier it was to discern whether something was actually functional or problematic. One of six beta readers hating a joke was not so bad, but if he’d been one of two, I’d have an exaggerated sense of the importance.

As Stephen King covered in his On Writing, having more betas also let opposing opinions go up against each other. If 1/6 was terrified by a scene and another 1/6 thought it was trite, with the others being neutral, then the tie can go to the runner.

Alternatively, as was usually my approach, I could e-mail the two outliers and find out more about the nature of their reactions, using the answers from one to form probing questions for the other, and figure out broader functionality. With only a couple betas, I’d have less of a chance of catching these instances, and at least three times during the crit such ping-ponging seriously helped balance the plot.

There were smaller boons, too. Only the third beta reader to turn in her copy noticed the following typo.

Click to resolve Blogspot's awful resolution issues!

One typo’s not so much, but only one of the six pointed out that people were eating the carcass of what had previously been identified as a poisonous creature. Only one caught a reference to Douglas Adams, and had the guts to say it was too bald and, as a fellow fan, it should go. And while I enjoyed their specialties, just as important were their ignorances; what people didn’t know or misbelieved about typical con-men or prisons had to be compensated for every bit as much as my errors.

Then there were the consensuses. When the death of one character left 3/6 readers deeply afraid for the safety of the rest of the cast, I knew I was on to something. That case was particularly relieving because of how hard it’d been for me to kill that character in the first place. There were many reasons for it to happen and I’ll likely write about it another time – but in this case, the reader pool’s reactions let me know the hard choice was the right choice. As much as I trust certain individuals, one out of two people can’t convince the way a majority of a pool can.

This is not disembodied data or focus-tested art. I know these beta readers personally or professionally, trust them, and have corresponded after they turned in their copies. I’m not looking to score 73% approval for a fight scene; I’m comparing human reactions on the page and checking in-depth as to how folks differ in experiencing my work. It may be that I’m too artsy for pure scientism. Whatever you call this, it’s the process that’s yielded my best work in the past. It’s the one I’ve got to rely on now, as I strive to produce the best thing I’ve ever written. Like I tell you every time, my beloved readers, I will not put this out unless it’s worth your time. I’m very grateful to these six for helping me get this far, as I will be to the theta readers next.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: Deceptions of Love

"When did I stop popping breath mints before we kissed? When did you stop shaving your legs, and start picking your teeth with your pinky nail like that? Tonight I sat down next to you and didn't even think to suck in my gut. When did we become... ourselves? Ourselves in front of each other? We're not pretending so we can impress each other anymore. Last night, I used your toothbrush because I simply didn't care. I shouldn't feel okay telling you that. I should be terrified you'd catch on. The same way you should be terrified that I'll realize you don't actually like football. I saw you rolling your eyes last night. Two years ago, you would have gouged them out sooner than let me catch that. We're starting to be honest with each other, and it's indecent. It's sick. What did you do to make me love you so much that I didn't mind being unimpressive around you?"

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: Can't Beat Them Audio Redux

To hear Nat Sylva narrate today's monologue, click here.

"Two years he’s turned us out of the playoffs. Their training camp looks even sharper this year. You’re going to have to do something more than trade for a draft pick. And I’ve got something to think about. Something to keep in your pocket, in your office safe. Something you should burn before November, whether or not we do it.

"I know a woman at an escort service. She's not from here or their town. I think she’s from Baton Rouge. We met once. She's… frightening in how persuasive she gets.

“We can hire her through an intermediary who will have no direct connections to you or our team.

"Now, if he's too good a few weeks into the season, we call an innocuous disposable cell. She'll single him out at a club. Get him alone. He's already had so many indiscretions that he practically has this coming. He’s had so many that whatever she claims, people will suspect. ESPN will discuss. Blogs will believe. The bruising will be artificial. The photographs convincing. The distractions? Perpetual. Even if her suit folds, he will miss at least one game against us. In all likelihood, he'll miss the season and wind up on a crap team next year, possibly in the other conference.

"It will cost us less than any of our defensive linemen make. Her life will be pulled apart by media and she won't care, because she doesn’t like her life. You wouldn’t agree to this if you did. With this money, she can make another one somewhere she likes better than Baton Rouge. And we hamstring the biggest team in our division.

"It's a thing you can do."
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